Your Drug of Choice


When you’re having one of those days, or one of those years…

Do you find yourself in the self-help section of your local bookshop, searching, searching for the solution to your woes? Hoping that the book with the answers will jump out off the shelf and go – me! I’m IT! Buy me, and your life will forever be transformed?

Or have you found yourself reading web pages that promise to fix your life, and found your finger hovering over that Buy Now button?

Or is the refrigerator your go-to drug when you’re feeling down-and-out? One more piece of chocolate pie, one more glass of wine… then I’ll feel better.

We won’t even go near buying shoes, handbags, lipstick, kitchen gadgets… as drug of choice for changing your life.

I had some time to spare on Friday while I was waiting for someone, and I found myself in Dymocks in Brisbane. It’s about the only bookshop in the city centre now Borders has gone. I wasn’t after anything in particular, so I wandered aimlessly through fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, literature, and then down the back, my eyes skimming over the business section. Then I remembered I’d like to get Brené Brown’s new book. That led me, inexorably, to the self-help aisle.

My eye was drawn to two women who were standing in front of the shelves looking for all the world like deer in the headlights. Stunned. Transfixed. Unable to turn away.

I was soooo tempted to ask one of them if they needed help, a recommendation, a shoulder to cry on.

I tried to get the attention of one. She turned my way, half-smiled, and went right back to being mesmerised by the books on the shelves. Every so often she’d pluck at one, like picking at link on your trousers. Pluck. no. Pluck. no.

And it hit me. That used to be me. I used to be the woman who couldn’t walk past a bookshop without standing hypnotised before the shelves of the self-help-new-age section. Plucking at books like clutching at straws. The staff at my local shop knew me by name :)

I had groaning bookshelves to prove it.

As drugs go, it was expensive, but not terribly toxic. Every now and again I would find a nugget in those books that would help me. I’d read passages aloud to my dear long-suffering husband. Listen to this!

Until I realised that this, too, was an addiction of sorts. Always seeking solutions, answers, remedies. Always seeking them in books.

And I talked to other women who were seekers too. They often sought their answers in different places than the bookshop, but seek they did.

And more often than not, we left feeling as empty as we were when we arrived.

Oh, sure, there was the high of having a brand new book in its bag, tucked under our arm. We couldn’t wait to get home to dive into our brand new, transformed, life. Often, I didn’t wait. I’d dash to the nearest coffee shop and almost feverishly open the pages, expecting magic and miracles with a side of latté.

Sometimes, though, the book didn’t get opened even when I got home. Occasionally, I’d find one under a pile of stuff, still in the shopping bag. And there are many, many of the books on my shelves at home with markers still in them not even half-way through.

The drug was always and ever in the searching, not in the consumption.

When I recognised the symptoms of addiction, I went cold-turkey. No books for a year or more. No Amazon orders of all the books we don’t here in Australia (including Brené Brown:) The only books I was ‘allowed’ were those from the library. But the cold-turkey wasn’t enough. The searching was a symptom of a deeper malaise.


The searching was a symptom of a lack of nourishment.

My soul longed for nourishment. Deep, nurturing, soul food. It longed for passion, desire, enthusiasm, beauty, and a sense that all is right in my world. Above all, my soul longed for the real me to step forward and be heard.

I began nourishing my heart, my body, my soul – first, by listening.

I listened to the wind call my name.

I listened to my heart sing love songs.

I listened for the sound of the beloved, and the call of longing from the universe.

I listened, and I heard what the real me needed to come forth.

I listened, and I heard what fills me up, what fuels me. What puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

I listened, and learned that this will be a lifelong journey. And I was glad.

I listened, and I heard.

I listened, and I fed my soul what it really wanted.

Time alone. Colour. Beauty. The connection of friends. Laughter unbounded. Love unbridled. Work that fills my soul with joy every single day. My family. My sweet dog. Long walks and drinking in the bliss of this land. Writing from the heart. Soaring melodies and beats that thrill my blood. Going shopping with my sister and not buying a thing. Great food, and family gathered around the dinner table. Intense conversations that get to the heart of the matter. And reading! Yes, the joy of reading has come back too, once it was no longer about seeking…

Now, when I am tempted by another self-help book, I take a deep, deep breath and ask what it is I truly need to nourish me.

And I listen.

This post was originally published at on September 24th 2012.

Image: Diego De Nicola


2 Responses to Your Drug of Choice

  1. Louisa October 11, 2016 at 3:41 pm #

    I can really relate to this post, Káren. I’ve noticed the same pattern myself and in the last year or two I have slowed down my self-help-book-buying habit (but not stopped completely). I hearby solemnly swear I will not buy another self-help book for a year (and bring back the joy of disappearing into a good novel)! Thanks for the gentle reminder. :-)

    • Káren October 12, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

      It’s my pleasure Louisa, and hello! I love your oath – will you let me know how you go? I remember it being hard to shift the habit…

      I’m always on the lookout for good fiction recommendations – will you share what you’re disappearing into, please?

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